Remember all that stuff I said about Ash Wednesday?
Well, it’s still true. But this year, what meant more to me than the ash on my forehead was the ash on my thumb.
I stood behind the altar rail as each and every person in the pews came up to receive the ashes. I dipped my thumb into the bowl of ashes over and over, carefully making a cross on each forehead and saying the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
I did this for old people, young people, and in-between people. Some of them knelt, some of them stood, some of them bent over so that I could reach their foreheads more easily. (Pro Tip: I am not the tallest pastor the world has ever seen.) Some of them were somber, some of them said “thank you”, some of them smiled when the dry ash bounced down their faces. The littlest ones grinned at me like I was giving them a present.
After the imposition of ashes and the prayers of the people, I did my best to clean off my thumb. I scrubbed and scrubbed with the baby wipes I had stashed in my pew, and while my thumb was clean enough for me to touch the communion cloths, it was still black with ash.
And I thought, Holy Buckets. With great power comes great responsibility.
Okay, I didn’t think that, exactly. (Pro Tip: I am not Spiderman.) But looking at my black thumb, I was overwhelmed with the trust and responsibility I’ve been given. To name sin and brokenness, and to speak God’s forgiveness. To preach the law and the gospel. To trace mortality on foreheads in the shape that means new life.
I also thought of this hymn, which we would be singing in church today if we had the “new” ELCA hymnal:
I’m going on a journey, and I’m starting today.
My head is wet, and I’m on my way.
Christ’s mark is on me; it’s on you, too;
it says he loves me, and he loves you, too!
Here’s the best youtube video of it that I could find. It’s a Lutheran children’s choir, accompanied by piano and saxophone, and I sort of love it.
God bless you on your Lenten / baptismal / getting through life journey, today and every day.